Allow me to start this review with a quote from Will & Grace.
Grace: I’m not mad. And I’ll tell you why I’m mad. Because I’m not mad!
Will: You’re not making any sense.
Grace: Oh and all of a sudden you’re the vice-president of things that make sense?
Will: Why vice-president?
Grace: Because Leo’s president. Deal with it.
This particular piece of dialogue – out of an episode that is absolutely hilarious – is not only pretty witty (even more so when you hear it in the context of the whole episode, I promise you), but it actually fitted my feelings upon finishing Lee Battersby’s The Corpse-Rat King very well. The Corpse-Rat King didn’t make that much sense in certain places, but it’s the kind of not-making-sense that just takes the book up a notch and makes it better than it would have been if it all made perfect sense. Do I still make sense?
Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.
Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.
And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.
Just as soon as he stops running away.
The blurb is an accurate description of the main plotline, and thus of the first few chapters of the book. When Marius actually starts running from the dead, it get’s crazy really fast. The main plotline is always pulsing in the background of the novel, but what’s on the surface is at times completely weird. It’s like a pearl necklace; the main plotline is the string that keeps every single pearl of craziness together. The best part is, it actually works really well! In terms of craziness, there is a clear progressive line to be found here. At first, it’s all quite calm, but steady as a beating drum, Marius finds himself in the most impossible situations. Three scenes that really stood out to me were the cardgame, the sunken ship and the tomb of kings, with the latter two fighting for the top spot on my best-scene-of-the-book list.
“the surface is at times completely weird
Whenever I say that there is a lot of craziness and not that much sense going on here, I mean that in the best of ways. I think the best comparison I can come up with, is the kind of craziness that’s going on in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. There, as well as in The Corpse-Rat King, the main character finds himself/herself in the most absurd of situations, but it’s those situations that make the book just great. On top of that, Lee Battersby flavoured his novel with an interesting take on the dead.
The plot might be good, but if there are no memorable characters to carry it, it won’t bring you all that far. Luckily, Marius is able to carry the plot and he does it with style. The way he was portrayed fitted the character of the corpse-rat really well and I liked him quite a lot. And even though his sidekick Gerd was absent quite a lot, I kind of liked him too, especially the chemistry between both of them was just fun to read about. There are a lot of other characters, but they only make a cameo for a few chapters, only to never be seen again. Normally, I would mind, but surprisingly I don’t mind at all when it comes to this novel.
“a lot of craziness and not that much sense
There’s something about Marius being alone – and running away from his quest – that worked really well here. Is he a character for the ages? No. In fact, after reading a couple other books, he might fade to the background of your memory. Not being memorable, however, does not mean he’s not fit for his role and as long as you’re in this world, you’ll enjoy him.
Another plus here is the writing. First of all, I felt like this book didn’t really took itself all to serious, which is a good thing. I always like it when a book isn’t pretending to be something more than it is and with The Corpse Rat-King, you get what you see. On top of that, Lee Battersby has a very nice and fluent way of writing, which made me able to breeze through the chapters whenever I had the time to read. Also, he was able to really bring across the voice and personality of Marius in a way I’d expected Marius to be.
Safe to say that, even though I bought this on a whim without knowing to much about it, I don’t regret reading it at all. If you’re into a light and hilariously fun and crazy read – and you’re not afraid of rotting flesh and talking corpses – I suggest you give this a try. I’m definitely looking forward to another novel from Lee Battersby’s pen.
★ ★ ★
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